Meet OS X El Capitan: Steering your Mac into smoother waters

Apple’s next major release of its operating system, dubbed OS X El Capitan, is only a day away.

Available from the Mac App store, El Capitan is a free update that will be rolled out from Wednesday September 30, and available in New Zealand from October 1.

El Capitan supports all Macs introduced in 2009 and later, and some models introduced in 2007 and 2008.

The upgrade builds on the features of OS X Yosemite and includes improvements to window management, built-in apps and Spotlight search, as well as performance improvements to make everyday activities, such as launching and switching apps, opening PDFs and accessing email, faster and more responsive.

“People love using their Macs, and one of the biggest reasons is the power and ease-of-use of OS X,” says Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering.

“El Capitan refines the Mac experience and improves performance in a lot of little ways that make a very big difference.

“Feedback from our OS X beta programme has been incredibly positive and we think customers are going to love their Macs even more with El Capitan,” he says.

Let’s talk Mac experience

With a streamlined Mission Control, El Capitan makes it easier to see and organise everything open on a Mac.

With a single swipe, Mission Control arranges all windows in a single layer. When the desktop is crowded, a user can drag a window to the top of their screen to create a new Space and spread out their work.

Furthermore, the new Split View feature automatically positions two app windows side-by-side in full screen to enable users to work with both apps.

In El Capitan users can now use Spotlight to check stock prices, weather conditions and forecasts.

Users can also search with Spotlight to find a file using natural language. For instance, users can type “email from Harrison in April” or “presentation I worked on yesterday” and Spotlight will find exactly what they are looking for.

The Spotlight window can be resized to display more results or move it anywhere on the desktop.

The operating system upgrade includes updates to built-in apps. Safari now features Pinned Sites to keep favourite websites open and active, as well as a new mute button to silence browser audio from any tab.

Mail introduces Smart Suggestions, which recognises names or events in a Mail message and prompts a user to add them to their contacts or calendar.

Users can also swipe to delete messages, similar to iOS, and juggle multiple emails while Mail is in full screen.

In Photos, users can edit locations, batch change descriptions, sort albums by date or title, and touch up photos with third-party editing extensions.

El Capitan also features an all-new Notes app that allows users to drag and drop photos, PDFs, videos and other files into a note, and add content directly from other apps, such as Safari web links or Maps locations, using the Share menu.

Checklists can be created to help users keep track of important to-do items, and the new Attachments Browser organises attachments in one view.

With iCloud, notes stay in sync so they can be created on one device and edited or checked off on other devices.

And let’s not forget system performance

OS X El Capitan improves a Mac’s system performance. Metal, Apple’s graphics technology, accelerates Core Animation and Core Graphics to boost system-level rendering by up to 50%, and efficiency by up to 40%, resulting in faster graphics performance for everyday apps.

Metal also takes full advantage of CPU and GPU, delivering up to 10 times faster draw call performance for a better experience in games and pro apps.

Testing was conducted by Apple in August 2015 using 2.7GHz Intel Core i5–based 13-inch MacBook Pro systems with 128GB of flash storage and 8GB of RAM.

Performance will vary based on system configuration, application workload, and other factors, Apple says.

El Capitan also features enhanced international language support, including a new Chinese system font for both Traditional and Simplified, with 50,000 characters for improved on-screen readability.

Chinese keyboard input methods now offer regularly updated vocabulary lists and a smarter candidate window.

El Capitan makes entering Japanese text faster by automatically transforming Hiragana into written Japanese and reducing the need to individually select and confirm word conversions.

Users can now have four new Japanese typefaces, providing more font choices when in documents.

– Catherine Knowles at NetGuide